The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
As a bi-racial American, I have often felt out of place, excluded, and alone in majority white spaces. In black spaces, I have also felt different. What I have experienced is that I do not neatly fit into white culture or black culture but rather rest in the middle. Based upon conversations with other bi-racial people over the years, I have come to wonder if there is a unique “in between” space that bi-racial people encounter. Exploring this “in between” space has been the major focus of my creative work. My newest body of work is titled, "The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same."
These paintings are my response toward the brutal police killings of unarmed black men, and women, across America. There has been national media coverage from Trayvon Martin (2012) and Eric Garner (2014) to Tamir Rice (2014) and Michael Brown (2014). The deceased victims range in age from 12 to 50 years old. I am interested in the value of black bodies in contemporary America, which has a long history of violence against its black population through slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration. My aim is to locate myself in this discussion as a bi-racial black man who has been both the victim of racism and “passed” for white because of my light skin.
I use self-portraiture and props to insert myself into a narrative structure. The white towel, the flag, the black doll are fluid metaphors in this story. The towel could be the dominance of the white majority but also turns into a head covering in Raghead. These dual meanings allow for multiple interpretations. The black doll is a Sambo type doll that was made for kids to play with decades ago. It is smiling, happy, and broken. This antique continues to serve as a reminder of the work we have to do in this country, and beyond, to demand social justice, equal rights, and protection under the law. It is my belief that the more things change the more they stay the same.